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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                  {37
and that their personal affairs were equally complicated
had drawn them together and, as happens in such cases,
they opened their hearts to each other, frankly told each
other of their apprehensions about the future and all
about what each of them found doubly hard to bear be-
cause pride prevented them from sharing their troubles
with others. Each showed the other the photograph of
his girl.
Alexei had a rather worn and faded photograph of
Olga that he himself had taken on that clear, bright day
in June when they had raced barefoot across the flower-
covered steppe on the other side of the Volga. A slim
girl in a pretty print frock, she sat with her legs drawn
in and with flowers in her lap. Among the daisies, she
herself looked white and pure, like a daisy in the morn-
ing dew. While arranging the flowers she thoughtfully
inclined her head and her eyes were wide open and en-
raptured, as if she were seeing the magnificent world for
the first time in her life.
After looking at this photograph, the tankman said
that a girl like that would never desert a fellow in
misfortune; but if she didówell, to hell with her, it only
showed that appearances are deceiving, and in that case
it would be better if she did leave him, because she was
a rotter, and it was no use tying yourself up for life with
a rotter, was it?
Alexei liked Anyuta's face and, without noticing it, he
expressed to Gvozdev, but in his own way, the very
thoughts that Gvozdev had just expressed to him. There
was nothing profound in this talk, and it did not in
the least help to solve their problems, but both felt the
better for it, as if a severe and long-festering boil had
burst.
They arranged that when Gvozdev left the hospital, he
and Anyuta, who had telephoned and promised to come
and meet him, would pass the ward window, after which
Alexei would write to Gvozdev, telling him what
impression the girl had made upon him. Gvozdev, in his
turn, promised to write Alexei and tell him how Anyuta
had met him, how she had reacted when she saw his
mutilated face, and how they were getting on. Alexei
thereupon decided that if things went well with Grisha